You’ll get sick if you go outside with wet hair when it’s cold. Eating chocolate causes acne. We’ve heard plenty of health advice over the course of our lives, but what’s accurate? Assertions can arise from pop culture, word-of-mouth, or Mom’s warnings. We asked Orange County doctors and experts to take a closer look at popular health claims and give us their take.
1 Peeing on a jellyfish sting cures it.
Jellyfish tentacles have these stingers called nematocysts that have sharp barbs on them and they’re microscopic,” says marine safety lieutenant of the Huntington Beach Fire Department Eric Dieterman. “They touch your skin, and they remain on your skin, and they’re kind of like a bee sting in that they deliver venom into your skin and cause irritation and redness. The compound of the poison in there is neutralized by certain things. One of those things that we use is a solution of vinegar and water, and it neutralizes that. Also, keeping (the affected area) in the sun (helps), and not touching it is really important because when you touch it, those nematocysts burst and cause more irritation to your skin. So, as it relates to peeing on it, no you shouldn’t pee on it because the pee has high levels of ammonia that could further irritate or exacerbate the problem. It could trigger the release of more venom onto your skin that could make it worse.” So go find some vinegar instead!
2 Surfing after it rains could make you sick.
“It should be noted that, for most of the time, the water quality in the ocean is really good and safe and the bacteria and other microbe counts are very low,” Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian pulmonologist Thomas Diamant says. “But after a rain, especially a heavy rain, the water runs off through the various creeks, rivers, and storm drains, and can even overflow from sewage drainage systems. At that point, there’s an increased microbial count in the ocean for up to three days, and there’s definitely an increased chance of infection. The most common type of infection (can lead to) upset stomach, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. But it can also cause respiratory infections including sore throats, sinus infections, bronchitis, and potentially even pneumonia. It can cause skin infections, especially if there’s an open wound … and eye infections like pink eye. If you submerge your head, you are definitely at an increased risk in comparison to people who are just swimming without putting their head in the water. As for the river runoff, usually if it’s not raining, then it’s definitely OK. They have done studies, and the microbial count is actually quite low there.”
3 The Santa Ana winds cause nose problems.
“The Santa Ana winds affect both people who have allergies and people who don’t just by the nature of them mixing everything that’s in the air around us,” says Amber Burnette, Kaiser Permanente Orange County’s chief of service for allergy and immunology. “For people who have hay fever (or) classic nose allergies, the Santa Anas can stir up things they are allergic to, such as pollen or mold spores in the air. They will get more nasal symptoms such as stuffy nose, runny nose, itching, and sneezing. There are also a lot of people who have what we call non-allergy nose problems. So for some people, triggers such as turbulent air from the winds, higher pollution levels, perfumes, strong odors, and smells are all irritants to their noses and can produce symptoms that look just like nose allergies. In that regard, even people who don’t have classic nose allergies can still be affected when all the stuff starts blowing around. About half of the people we see who have nose problems have allergies and about half have this non-allergy condition, but the symptoms are very similar.”
4 Everyone should consult air quality reports before going outside.
“For the majority of the population that doesn’t have underlying medical conditions or lung disease, the air quality—though important— is not as vital to pay attention to, unless it is severely abnormal,” says Robert Goldberg, pulmonary physician at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. “In Orange County, we usually don’t get severe abnormalities of air quality that are seen in major cities. For those with underlying pulmonary diseases like asthma, the air quality is a more important aspect of the forecast to pay attention to. We do have issues related to pollen release, which is another aspect of the air quality report. That can affect underlying allergies and asthma and cause worsening breathing. The best way to minimize exposure (to poor air quality) is by staying indoors where the air is being filtered.”
5 You don’t need sunscreen indoors or when it’s cloudy.
“Sunscreen use on a daily basis in large population studies … where they looked at people who wore sunscreen every day versus people who wore it just when they thought they needed to … showed a significant difference in the cases of skin cancer,” says Michelle Aszterbaum, dermatologic surgeon and dermatologist at The Dermatology Center of Newport Beach, adding, “1.5 percent of those folks who used it on a daily basis developed melanoma versus 3 percent of the people who weren’t instructed to wear it on a daily basis. If you’re working indoors … you might be working near a window or you might decide to go outside for a short time and do something. Most of the UVB rays are blocked through windows, but the UVA rays are not. Now UVA rays are not what cause you to burn, but it is the wavelength of ultraviolet light that penetrates deeply in the skin, causing aging, brown spots, and wrinkles. A lot of skin cancer can be associated with UVA rays as well. We know that sun damage and skin cancer is a cumulative effect, so if every day you take a break and go outside, then you’re getting that amount of sun on a daily basis.”
6 Short-term fasting can be a healthy way to lose weight.
“In the few years we’ve been looking at it, we saw that short-term fasting was (a better method for weight loss) than total calorie restriction where (patients) reduce portion sizes or use apps to monitor calorie intake,” says Bavani Nadeswaran, bariatric medicine physician at UC Irvine Medical Center. “Short-term fasting is voluntarily reducing calorie intake during a certain period of time. Historically, this is what humans did when we were hunter-gatherers. There are two well-known methods. One is called 16:8, when you eat for 8 hours and fast for 16 hours. The second method is called 5:2, where there are two days of the week when you really cut calories down (around 500 for women and 700 for men). During the eating period, you would eat the way you normally do, but you don’t want to binge and make up for not eating. Other benefits of short-term fasting include controlling sugar, diabetes, and insulin resistance. When you eat throughout the day, your body burns glucose. When you fast for more than 12 hours, you go into this metabolic switch where you’re now using fatty acids and ketone bodies as fuel. Ketone bodies prevent oxidative stress on cells. That improves cardiovascular health. It has also been shown to improve memory, reduce symptoms in multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and maintain muscle mass.”
7 Certain detox diets can promote health.
“There are many different ways to detox,” says Rajsree Nambudripad, internal medicine physician at St. Jude Medical Center and founder of OC Integrative Medicine in Fullerton. “There’s detoxing through your gut. So, people who are constipated, one of the ways is just to get their bowels moving. You can detox through your skin by exercising and sweating. Or you can detox by your diet. By eliminating common inflammatory triggers and food sensitivities, the chances of (patients) feeling better and losing a few pounds is high. It forces them to be mindful of what they are eating. It starts with those basic principles, and then we layer in vitamins and supplements as needed. I use pharmaceutical-grade supplements that are third-party tested. The products in the supplement industry (in general) aren’t FDA-approved. It really helps to go with a doctor’s guidance. With my patients, we do blood work beforehand, and I have objective ways to see that they really benefited not just on how they feel, but their weight, blood pressure, and follow-up labs on liver enzymes and insulin. Juice and broth cleanses are nice because your gut is not having to digest (solid) food, but you’re still getting hydration and vitamins and minerals into your system. The main thing to make sure is that they’re all organic. I recommend minimizing the amount of fruit juices because that’s a lot of sugar.”
8 There is a proven link between cancer and cellphones.
“It seems that all the studies are pointing to the fact that cellphones do not lead to increases in cancer,” says Ravi Salgia, professor and chair of the Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research at City of Hope and the leading physician at the Newport Beach location. “Radio-frequency radiation (emitted by cellphones) causes heat toward the body and the site that is radiated. It’s also important to realize that this is nonionizing radiation (as opposed to ionizing radiation that is harmful). (Because of the heat generated), it is a good common practice to keep your cellphone away from your body as much as you can. Even your laptop generates heat, and you don’t want to keep it on your lap for a long time. Other good common practices include texting and hands-free talking. You have to have some downtime from your cellphone and especially at night. The take-home message for me is that radio-frequency radiation levels in cellphones have decreased over the past 20 years. They’re making better and better ones that are more digital and not analog.”
9 Excess screen time is harmful to kids’ health.
“(Screen time) is not necessarily harmful if used appropriately,” says Reshmi Basu, pediatric physician at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. “Especially in today’s current situation, it’s such a necessity not just for schooling but to stay connected with others. The important thing is to know what the boundaries are and set appropriate limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics on its website (healthychildren.org) has a Family Media Use plan. You’ll input your kids’ ages, and it’ll give you a list (to help) your family sit down and come up with guidelines. The main thing to consider is the amount of time spent. In the short term in younger kids, we see that if they are in front of a screen for a prolonged period of time, they’ll become more emotional. In the long term, (too much screen time) could affect language and emotional development. Mood swings and insomnia manifest in older kids depending on what they’re actually viewing. We also see things like attention problems, anxiety, depression, and obesity. Depending on how your family is functioning, you should set media-free times—whether it’s mealtimes, car rides, or before bedtime.”
10 Blue light from screens damages your eyes.
“Right now there actually isn’t any good, strong evidence that says blue light damages our eyes. Blue light alone doesn’t cause eye strain either,” says Jason Ng, associate professor at Marshall B. Ketchum University. “You do get eye strain from … staring at your screen for a long time, but the blue light itself is not a cause of that, as far as we know. (Studies) have not found that filtering it with glasses helps; it doesn’t change anything in terms of eye strain. Blue blockers, the ones with yellow lenses, block a lot more blue light than any type of clear filter that is trying to block blue light. So if you’re worried about blue light, you’d probably want to wear a yellow filter. But again, you probably don’t have to worry about blue light all that much. And even if you’re blocking a ton of blue light with a yellow filter, it doesn’t have any effect on eye strain.”